<div id="yiv1526673339yui_3_7_2_15_1353196611184_39">Programming note:
Blogging this week will be all over the place, so stay tuned. I have
little idea of what&#039;s in front of us logistically. I do know that
Tuesday is prep and travel, and Wednesday I&#039;ve deemed as Pool and
Pigmentation Day. However I do promise to keep posting as interesting stuff occurs.<br /><br />So keep checking back--my hunch is that there will be more frequent, but shorter, updates.</div>
<div><br />***</div>
will start the Memphis prep with what we know: the numbers. Granted,
2-3 games is a small sample size, but we can glean &quot;kind of&quot; teams both
VCU and Memphis want to be. We know history, we can listen to coaches,
and we can thus make educated guesses about what&#039;s important. These can
be refined into analysis once we hit Atlantis.<br /><br />This game screams strength-on-strength:</div>
<li>Memphis likes to play fast, wants to play faster. Fast plays right into the hands of havoc.</li>
<li>Memphis has the 31st most efficient defense in the nation and VCU has the 31st most efficient offense.</li>
is the nation&#039;s fourth-best team in terms of taking care of the
basketball (11.9% turnover rate) and VCU is the nation&#039;s 11th best at
producing turnovers (forcing a TO on 29.6% of opponents&#039; possessions).</li>
<li>Falling in line with that number, VCUs steal percentage is second
nationally (21.1%) while Memphis is 33rd-best at avoiding swipes (only
6.4% of possessions).</li>
<li>Memphis is 50th nationally, allowing offensive
rebounds on just 29.2% of opponents shots. VCU is 27th nationally,
grabbing rebounds on 43.5% of our misses. </li>
<div>There&#039;s more, but it&#039;s
incredibly interesting to see how these two teams match up.
Hilariously, until Sunday morning, Ken Pomeroy had VCU losing 67-66,
giving the Rams a 48% chance of winning. However on Sunday morning,
Pomeroy flipped. He now has VCU winning 68-67, giving the Rams a 54%
chance of winning. I guess when Ken re-ran the numbers, Treveon Graham&#039;s
short jumper at the buzzer went in.<br /><br />But seriously, VCU carries
an Arc Advantage that may be the telling number: VCU hits 37.7% from
deep (92nd nationally), and Memphis defends threes at a 36.6% rate, only
244th nationally. And it plays out on the other end of the floor as well: Memphis hits the three at only 29.4% (229th) and
VCU defends the three at 26.0% (66th).<br /><br />Josh Pastner, the head coach at Memphis, was unhappy after Memphis slogged to a 65-54 win over Samford Saturday night.<br /><br />&quot;I was disappointed in our lack of everything,&quot; he said. &quot;I thought we played slow. I thought we were really slow. I
thought we were slow in all areas. We were slow offensively and
defensively. Our pace wasn&#039;t good.&quot;<br /><br />And more Pastner:<br /><br />&quot;We are not a team that needs to play slow with our speed and
athleticism. We were slow, and our guard play has to be
better. I don&#039;t want to come down and run set plays. I want to get into
the flow and pace.&quot;<br /><br />He doesn&#039;t want to run set plays? No matter
the outcome, this game has the potential to be ridiculously
entertaining, and exhausting. Memphis&#039;s athletes and desire to maximize their abilities presents a high level challenge to havoc. And as we&#039;ve seen before, havoc is underestimated until it&#039;s unleashed on you.</div>
<div><br />Strength on strength. I wouldn&#039;t want it any other way.</div>
<br />
<br />
<div>Here&#039;s a quick, high level look at
the Tigers that matter. Pastner has gone mainly with an eight-man
rotation. In fact, only eight players saw the floor against Samford. In
their first game, Pastner went deeper into the bench when Memphis jumped
all over North Florida.</div>
<div><br />The Tigers were sixth in the country in field-goal percentage last
season (49.1%) and were 21st nationally in KenPom&#039;s offensive efficiency numbers. Five players return who played 21 or more minutes.<br /><br />Tarik
is a load on the block. Black goes 6-9, 260 and shot 68% from the
field last year, mostly around the basket where he hit 75% in finishing
situations. Black is a preseason first team All C-USA pick and on NBA draft boards. Worthless
note, except for possible heckle material: Thursday is Black&#039;s birthday.<br /><br />Joe
is the point guard and he is a good one. Jackson is
slight--only 6-1 and about 170 pounds--but is very fast in the open
court. He isn&#039;t a prodigious scorer and not a particularly great
shooter, but he just plain gets the job done. His ability to withstand
havoc is where he will be most dangerous. Jackson is a preseason second team All C-USA pick.<br /><br />Antonio Barton can shoot it. Barton is a 42.9% career three-point shooter and hit four threes against Samford.<br /><br />Those
are specialists, but 6-7, 240-pound Adonis Thomas might give VCU the
most trouble because of his versatility. Thomas can play the block but
also shoot the three. Don&#039;t let his 0-5 arc performance sway you--Thomas
hit 40.5% of his threes last year.<br /><br />Similarly, Chris Crawford, a
2012-13 preseason All C-USA second team member, is an elite athlete.
Crawford excels on defense (63 steals last year) but is a capable scorer
and three-point shooter (51 threes, 39% last year).&#160; Crawford has the
second-most FGA on the team last year (276).<br /><br id="yui_3_7_2_18_1353245271547_376" /></div>
<div id="yiv1526673339yui_3_7_2_15_1353196611184_65">DJ
Stephens, Shaq Goodwin
, and Seton Hall transfer Ferrakhon Hall round
out the main eight. Stephens grabbed seven rebounds in 17 minutes
against Samford and has been a quality role player his entire Memphis
career. Goodwin is a highly-touted 6-9 freshman. Six of his nine
rebounds are offensive. And Hall is also a solid role player who can use his size well in spot situations. (Think DJ Haley.)</div>
<br />
<br />
<div>What does all that mean? I don&#039;t yet know, but we will figure it out. There&#039;s plenty of time.</div>
<br />
<div> Meanwhile, I demand (ha!) that you soak up this week, as it&#039;s a specific benefit of the Final Four run, and of last year&#039;s validation. It&#039;s the national salute of a basketball program on the rise to be a part of this great event. You should be very proud and enjoy every moment of it. For a little while, forget the Xs and Os and take stock of where we are, and where we&#039;re going.</div>
<br />
<div>It&#039;s also a litmus test. VCU may have the opportunity to play three ranked teams this weekend. No matter how it falls, it&#039;s quite a challenge in front of us. The days of hoping to get a BCS bottom feeder on the schedule for name&#039;s sake only are over. This is what the &quot;big time&quot; (again--whatever the heck that means) features. Take this weekend&#039;s games and add a&#160; nonconference slate that features Wichita State, Alabama, and Belmont. Impressive.</div>
<br />
<div>Let me put it this way: Old Dominion is the seventh most appealing non-conference game on the schedule. Think about that for a moment. Think about what every ODU game has meant in the past. Oh, it still means the world to us, but the stakes are different. In years past, both programs had a lot on the line when we tipped off. The stakes are vastly different this year. We have three games this week alone more important to our season.</div>
<br />
<div>Now don&#039;t get me wrong. That is not a dig at ODU. Rather, it&#039;s a pat on the backs of everybody that got VCU to this point. I mean it. It&#039;s Dana Kirk through Shaka Smart, Calvin Duncan through Dom Jones and straight to the 13 that suit up on Thursday. It&#039;s been bumpy at times, but here we are.</div>
<br />
<div>Remember how you felt in Buffalo? <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCphWpDnAcU" target="_blank">Remember Kevin Harlan calling &quot;Is this the dagger?&quot;</a> I still get chills, and I still play the YouTube video.</div>
<br />
<div>Enjoy this week, because that kind of a game is on our regular season schedule now.</div>